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Computations of Absolute Solvation Free Energies of Small Molecules Using Explicit and Implicit Solvent Model

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journal contribution
posted on 14.04.2009, 00:00 by Devleena Shivakumar, Yuqing Deng, Benoît Roux
Accurate determination of absolute solvation free energy plays a critical role in numerous areas of biomolecular modeling and drug discovery. A quantitative representation of ligand and receptor desolvation, in particular, is an essential component of current docking and scoring methods. Furthermore, the partitioning of a drug between aqueous and nonpolar solvents is one of the important factors considered in pharmacokinetics. In this study, the absolute hydration free energy for a set of 239 neutral ligands spanning diverse chemical functional groups commonly found in drugs and drug-like candidates is calculated using the molecular dynamics free energy perturbation method (FEP/MD) with explicit water molecules, and compared to experimental data as well as its counterparts obtained using implicit solvent models. The hydration free energies are calculated from explicit solvent simulations using a staged FEP procedure permitting a separation of the total free energy into polar and nonpolar contributions. The nonpolar component is further decomposed into attractive (dispersive) and repulsive (cavity) components using the Weeks−Chandler−Anderson (WCA) separation scheme. To increase the computational efficiency, all of the FEP/MD simulations are generated using a mixed explicit/implicit solvent scheme with a relatively small number of explicit TIP3P water molecules, in which the influence of the remaining bulk is incorporated via the spherical solvent boundary potential (SSBP). The performances of two fixed-charge force fields designed for small organic molecules, the General Amber force field (GAFF), and the all-atom CHARMm-MSI, are compared. Because of the crucial role of electrostatics in solvation free energy, the results from various commonly used charge generation models based on the semiempirical (AM1-BCC) and QM calculations [charge fitting using ChelpG and RESP] are compared. In addition, the solvation free energies of the test set are also calculated using Poisson−Boltzmann (PB) and Generalized Born model of solvation (GB), which are two widely used continuum electrostatic implicit solvent models. The protocol for running the absolute solvation free energy calculations used throughout is automated as much as possible, with minimum user intervention, so that it can be used in large-scale analysis and force field optimization.